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April 15, 2008

Namibian land reform is problematic, study finds

Three Namibian former commercial farms are now being used for subsistence farming and make no contribution to the national economy, a study on resettlement farms has found.

Only one of six portions is being farmed on, cattle donated by a church were sold for alcohol, 120 instead of seven families are living on a farm, no post-resettlement support - these are the findings of a study on three commercial farms bought by Government to settle landless people.

Two South African students, who recently completed their studies in land management at the Polytechnic, conducted a study on three farms - Du Plessis and Drimiopsis in the Omaheke Region and Lievenberg farm southwest of Otjimbingwe - and recently presented their results.

"The implementation of resettlement urgently needs to be improved and post-resettlement services are obviously not in place, while we found that apparently no systematic monitoring of resettlement farms takes place - resettled former farmworkers are forgotten (by the Lands Ministry)," said Julia Tsiu, who presented the findings.

"There is also little co-operation between different Government ministries to support the resettled beneficiaries," Tsiu added. "The left hand does not seem to know what the right hand does regarding resettlement. Each resettlement farm should be visited once a year by Government to see on the ground what is going on."

On Lievenberg farm, which is 13 000 hectares in size and was divided into six portions in 2005 by the Lands Ministry, the students only found a relative of one beneficiary looking after the portion with the farmhouse. All six portions were allocated to civil servants who qualified for resettlement.

"The other five portions are not utilised, nothing is going on there, while the sixth beneficiary, who has livestock on there and uses rotational grazing to avoid land degradation, is only a part-time farmer," Tsiu said. "That beneficiary also told us that he never received any post-resettlement support from the Lands Ministry."

Tsiu and her co-author, Winnie Mosotho, found a different scenario on Drimiopsis and Du Plessis farms between Gobabis and Otjinene.

Drimiopsis is not a declared resettlement farm but is one of 56 farms that were owned by the apartheid South African government and automatically became the property of the Namibian Government after Independence. Seven households of San people were settled on the 2 262 ha farm in 1991, but about 700 mostly San people are now living there - altogether 120 households. "They experience very poor living conditions; there are severe social problems and they try a bit of subsistence crop farming."

"The Roman Catholic Church donated nine cattle to them to breed with, but the resettled people sold them for alcohol before breeding could even start," the two students found when they conducted interviews with the people on the farm. Since 2003 a project co-ordinator from the Lands Ministry has apparently been running the farm and some training and support is being provided.

The situation on the nearby Du Plessis farm differed from the other two. About 25 households, mainly resettled former farm labourers from the Omitara area, are living on the two portions of the farm. One group was settled by the Ministry in 1997 and another in 2005.

According to the study, no support was provided after they were moved to the farm. The people there are farming with livestock and do a bit of crop cultivation. According to the study, both resettled groups were promised as far back as 1997 that they would only stay there temporarily before being resettled somewhere else. They were also promised that they would be put at the top of the waiting list for resettlement, but nothing apparently came from that.

"The people however have a committee which is in regular contact with the ministry," the study noted.

All three former commercial farms were now mostly used for subsistence farming "and do not contribute to the country's economy," the findings concluded.

The study, titled 'Assessment of land use on the resettlement farms Lievenberg, Drimiopsis and Du Plessis', was conducted and funded under the mentorship programme of the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NiD).

The Namibian

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